First airing in September 2006, the first season of NBC’s Heroes found its audience in a big way. It combined an interesting cast, slick special effects (for the time), and a sprawling mythology to bring superpowers to the small screen that, in retrospect, really set the stage for today’s superhero TV line-up. However, Heroes‘ success proved short-lived, as each successive season grew more convoluted and threw away a lot of the goodwill its debut garnered.
This year, the series is set to return with Heroes: Reborn, and there’s every reason to suspect it could be a real phoenix-rising moment for the show.
The first season of Heroes is regarded as far and away the series’ strongest effort, and for good reason. It stylishly introduced a cool set of characters within an interesting world. It charted the diverse journeys each of these characters went through to ultimately collide and do something heroic.
Where the show went wrong was in its habit of resetting this character development. Each season, without fail, characters would lose their powers, memories, or homes, and have to retread their earlier plotlines. This resetting undermined the audience’s investment in the characters, and lost track of the show’s central concepts in the fog of its convoluted mythology. Heroes, as a show, is about ordinary people becoming extraordinary and with each season it got further away from that idea. The showrunners doubled down on Heroes being a show about these characters and their problems, but misunderstood why people liked the series in the first place.
Heroes: Reborn looks like the show that Heroes could have become in an alternate universe. I always thought a much more compelling direction for the series would be one that saw each season tackle a different group of characters struggling with their own journeys. Sure, you could have some characters and mythology carry over between seasons, as with American Horror Story or The Wire, but each season would more or less standalone.
Heroes: Reborn looks to be taking just this approach — at least, it seems that way from everything out there. The 13-episode series is going to revisit the Heroes universe through the perspectives of a whole new set of ordinary people with extraordinary abilities. Original cast members like Jack Coleman, Masi Oka, and Greg Grunberg are set to return, as is showrunner Tim Kring. NBC is promising to “reconnect with the basic elements of the show’s first season”; I’m hopeful that they can succeed.